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University College for Interdisciplinary Learning


Visualising Information: Uses and Abuses of Data

Course Unit Code

UCIL20401 (10 Credits)

UCIL20400 (20 Credits, two semesters long)

Course Unit Details

  • Level 2
  • School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures

Overview

"A picture is worth a thousand words," but only if you know how to read it. Digital technology has made charts, maps, and visual information ubiquitous - and easier to share than ever. Whether we deal with infection charts, crime maps or weather forecasts, well-designed charts and maps can be empowering, but they can also be misleading and ambiguous. In fact, we are often ill-equipped to read visual information critically.

In this unit, you will develop the skills to engage with information visually rather than just through writing. You will learn to recognise biased, misleading or oversimplified forms of visual representation, and to create better ones that allow you to explore and communicate information visually. Using examples from a wide range of disciplines - from criminology, to meteorology, history or computer science - you will discover key principles of visual thinking and communication and learn how to create your own charts and maps.

Historically, data visualisation has often been used to discriminate, control and police. In this unit, you will explore interventions by critical scientists, scholars and activists who visualise data to expose injustice, challenge unfair classification systems, and speak truth to power.

The unit allows you to formulate your own questions and answer them using a suite of digital tools, developing and presenting your argument through visualisation and narrative.

Note that this unit does not involve any coding and does not require any previous technical knowledge.

Aims

  • Explore the uses and abuses of visual information in different domains of knowledge, from COVID charts to weather maps
  • Give a practical introduction to some of the most important data visualisation tools used across disciplines, including maps, charts and network graphs
  • Help you, regardless of your discipline or background to become more vigilant and reflective users of visual information
  • Enhance your employability by allowing you to develop practical, critical and creative skills needed to thrive in the workplace

Learning Outcomes

Syllabus

10 Credits

  • Why Visualise? Visual Thinking and Visual Communication
  • Visual Variables: Colour, Size, Shape
  • Graphs and Charts
  • Visualising Space: Maps
  • How to Lie with Charts: Misleading Visualisations

20 Credits

  • Visual Thinking and Visual Communication
  • Visual Variables: Colour, Size, Shape
  • Graphs and Charts
  • Visualising Space: Maps
  • How to Lie with Charts: Misleading Visualisations
  • Envisioning Connection: Networks
  • Beyond Numbers: Qualitative Visualisation
  • Uncertainty: Visualising Doubt
  • Data Visualisation and Social Justice
  • The Contested Status of Visual Knowledge

Assessment

10 Credits

  1. 1500-word essay with a self-designed visualisation (55%)
  2. 500-word critical discussion of a self-selected visualisation (35%)
  3. Ongoing assessments (10%)

20 Credits

  1. 3000-word project with self-designed visualisation (55%)
  2. 5-minute presentation of a self-designed visualisation in class (17.5%)
  3. 500-word critical discussion of a self-selected visualisation (17.5%)
  4. Ongoing assessments (10%)

Eligibility

UCIL units are designed to be accessible to undergraduate students from all disciplines.

UCIL units are credit-bearing and it is not possible to audit UCIL units or take them for additional/extra credits. You must enrol following the standard procedure for your School when adding units outside of your home School.

If you are not sure if you are able to enrol on UCIL units you should contact your School Undergraduate office. You may wish to contact your programme director if your programme does not currently allow you to take a UCIL unit.

You can also contact the UCIL office if you have any questions.

Students who have taken 'Visualising Information: Use and Abuses of Data' (DIGI20020) from SALC, cannot take this unit.

Teaching Staff

Luca Scholz and leading scholars from across The University of Manchester.

Teaching and Learning Methods

The unit includes contributions from leading researchers from a broad range of disciplines, including criminology, history, computer science, sociology, and meteorology.

The unit is made up of 5 (10) online modules (released at intervals) and 5 (10) face-to-face seminars that include practical tutorials and discussions in the Digital Humanities Lab, which is equipped with computers and large screens.

The unit is interactive and uses a variety of learning materials, including historical and contemporary visualisations from a broad range of disciplines.

Timetable

UCIL20401 (10 Credits). You must attend one of the following timetabled activities:
SessionDayTime
1Thursday10:00 - 12:00
2Thursday14:00 - 16:00
3Friday10:00 - 12:00
UCIL20400 (20 Credits). You must attend one of the following timetabled activities in Semester 1:
SessionDayTime
1Thursday10:00 - 12:00
2Thursday14:00 - 16:00
3Friday10:00 - 12:00
And you must attend one of the following timetabled activities in Semester 2:
SessionDayTime
1Thursday12:00 - 14:00
2Thursday14:00 - 16:00
3Friday10:00 - 12:00

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